It goes without saying that bluegrass is part of a timeless tradition that’s been carried forward from one generation to the next. Even those artists and ensembles that publicly profess the need to add their own individual elements to the mix will generally cite their reverence for the roots as well.
Consequently, it’s not surprising that Lonesome River Band, a group at the forefront of today’s modern music scene, would choose to pay homage to the seminal Gospel group, The Easter Brothers, a trio borne from Mount Airy, North Carolina whose origins date back some 60 years. In the liner notes to LRB’s terrific new tribute, Singing Up There, banjo player Sammy Shelor cites the influence the Easters had on his early efforts and the lingering impact that continues to inspire him and the other members of the band all these decades on. Indeed, that spirit is shored up in each of the ten tracks shared here, all of which convey the enthusiasm and exuberance that could be found through the essence of their spiritual songs.
That said, the new album isn’t necessarily for Gospel lovers only. While the songs are flush with deference and devotion, the performances are indelibly inscribed in ways both captivating and compelling. On songs such as Every Minute Means a Mile, Almost Home, Little At a Time, Hes Coming Back Someday, Standing on the Banks, and I’ll Be Gone Gone Gone, the performances provide an astute example of the celebratory stance the Easter Brothers proffered and a sound faithfully emulated by the LRB. After all, LRB is a group known for their high harmonies and peerless picking. So too, the sacred sensibilities inscribed in Lord I’m Just a Branch and Hereafter testify to their sincerity and the sanctity of that sound.
Ultimately, Singing Up There: A Tribute to the Easter Brothers shares the best of both traditions, carrying the trajectory forward while still paying heed to both past and present without having to compromise either. In that sense, it ought to be considered an essential offering, and one that will find every lover of true bluegrass readily able to admire and embrace.